A Tennessee judge has ordered that a baby’s name be changed from “Messiah” to “Martin,” explaining that There Can Be Only One:
“The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Judge [Lu Ann] Ballew said.
The parents had gone to court in a child support case, and could not agree on what the 7-month-old’s last name would be. They had not asked for any help with his first name, which they agreed on. Judge Ballew ruled that the child’s name will combine both parents’ names, and will be “Martin DeShawn McCullough.” The baby’s mother intends to appeal, and we support her right to give her child a perfectly awful name, because Freedom. Maybe she should name the kid Freedom?
Jaleesa Martin, the baby’s mother, was outraged by the unasked-for name change, and said that she had chosen the name because she liked the way it sounded alongside the names of her older children, Micah and Mason:
“I was shocked. I never intended on naming my son Messiah because it means God and I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs.”
Is a Child Support Magistrate allowed to do that, even? Obviously, this one did, and while we are Not A Lawyer and are far too lazy to do much research on how the First Amendment applies to baby names, we did find an overview* (PDF link) that notes
The law governing the naming of babies is surprisingly difficult to ascertain. In some states, there is a complete absence of any law on the subject. … [and in] other states, there are patchwork statutes that address some, but not all, of the potential legal issues.
Looks like this will be an interesting case to follow up, and we hope Ms. Martin has the ACLU’s phone number.
The Social Security Administration indicates that “Messiah” is an increasingly popular baby name, which is probably yet another sign (along with the popularity of the middle name “Nevaeh” for girls) that the Apocalypse is nigh.
Judge Ballew insists that the name change is in the child’s best interests; the area has a large Christian population, which presumably led her to rename him after the Roman god of war:
“It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is.”
And now, neither do his parents, so it all works out pretty equally.
* Also fun is the article’s coverage of changing naming conventions, which mentions some actual colonial Puritan names: “Fear-Not,” “Praise-God,” and “Fly-fornication.”